Did Microsoft flag 500,000 innocent Windows users as pirates?

Did Microsoft flag 500,000 innocent Windows users as pirates?

Summary: Is WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) so flawed that it caused Microsoft to flag half a million genuine Windows users as pirates?

TOPICS: Windows

Did Microsoft flags 500,000 innocent Windows users as pirates?Is WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) so flawed that it has caused Microsoft to flag over half a million genuine Windows users as pirates?

An article on InformationWeek does the math on the statistics released the other day by Microsoft relating to WGA and comes up with a figure for the number of users affected - over 500,000.

[poll id=71]

From the article:

Microsoft has been tight-lipped about the false positive numbers, but Tuesday Lazar said it was "less than half a percent." At that rate, as many as 571,000 people have been incorrectly identified as pirates.  

Is this figure correct?  Is it close to the mark?  I don't know.  As far as I know, only Microsoft knows the true figure and I've repeatedly asked them to give me a solid figure.  The closest to a figure that I've come is "a handful".  If this number of 500,000 is even remotely close to the true figure, then "a handful" classes as the understatement of the year. 

Accusing half a million legitimate Windows users is a serious matter.  Being accused of being a pirate is no laughing matter.  How much time has been wasted on false positives?  How many people who had genuine Windows licenses have given Microsoft more money when they didn't need to.

Being falsely accused of being a pirate is bad enough, but the issue goes deeper than that.  It's a matter of trust.  User need to be able to trust Microsoft with the power that WGA gives the company, and at present it's clear that there is huge distrust.  One way Microsoft can start to build trust is to be clear about how many genuine Windows systems have been wrongly flagged as non-genuine and be open and clear about what they are doing to reduce the impact that WGA has on genuine Windows users.  Until then, people who know what WGA is will be wary of this technology.

Topic: Windows

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  • Talking about addition and numbers...

    How can 158% of the people who voted in your poll distrust WGA?
    • Maybe we should have another poll ...

      ... do you trust the poll?

      The issue with the poll plugin is that if, at the early stages people vote in rapid succession, the software becomes a little confused. The vote is logged but it displays nonsense. Once you have a poll of 20 or so votes, it settles down. Don't worry, your vote is logged!
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • Huh, a third party guess?

    Completely useless...

    Hey, here you go, I *guess* that lots of pirates are going to get caught.
    • Have ...

      Lots of pirates HAVE been caught.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • I swear to god...

        As a legitimate customer if I ever had to call Microsoft about an apparent "piracy" issue I have. I will tell them to stick it and definitely convert to Mac. (As I now have my Wii, I'm finding myself less inclined to play my computer games).
    • You always said Windows users were a bunch of thieves.

      Now we have confirmation that only thieves use Windows.
    • At what cost?

      How much hassle to legitimate customers is it worth to catch how many cheaters? What's the cost/benefit? Since you maintain that MS users really do have a choice, then you implicitly admit that MS risks driving paying customers away if they make their lives too difficult.
      John L. Ries
    • Re: Huh, a third party guess?

      Did you read the article? The percent of false positives comes from WGA program director David Lazar.

      The third party only did the math.

      none none
  • Dell Customer with Dell Disk flagged

    1.A customer with a virus infested PC needed a reinstall. I used the Dell XPpro SP1 disk still wrapped in original plastic to reload with original serial number and was flagged. Had to have it manually activated and lost an hour of time presenting proof.
    2. A WinXPSP2 update disk I bought at Comp Usa flagged on another machine. I reloaded it again and it activated with no further issues.
    There's something wrong with their code once again.
    • My Dell

      I got a new Dell back in November and it has never asked me to Activate it at all. I did a ground up reinstall of the OS to get all of the crapware out of it. Not once has it asked me for the Product code or to activate it. This PC has been to MS Update serveal times and never flags any issues. I don't get it. Not that I'm complaining but does anyone have any idea why?

    • WinXP WGA?

      I have a Dell Laptop with WinXP SP2 Home Edition and bought the $10 CD that Dell sells to reload the OS. Since then, I have wiped the hdd to get rid of the crapware, reloaded Windows, imaged the load, wiped it, reloaded the image numerous times, occasionally update Windows (I keep Windows Update disabled by default) and have never once been asked for a product key.

      Do you mean to tell me that the M$ borg has infected WinXP? I thought WGA was just for Vista?
  • Burden of Proof

    The burden of proof should be on Microsoft. People have purchased a license that shouldn't be arbitrarily revoked. Especially with rules made up as they go along.

    I recently had to purchase a new version of Windows because Gateway gave me a Home Edition CD for my Professional Edition system. The mismatch won't let me activate even though my activation code has been good in the past and the system previously passed WGA. Gateway refuses to send me the correct CD blaming it on Microsoft. Microsoft says Gateway should fix the problem. So I'm screwed.
  • Their Upset

    Even with a correction in favor of trusting MS it still comes out with the majority distrusting windows antipiracy program. I have proof their programs flawed. Read my post about Dell unless you believe Dell is selling bootleg disks.
  • WGA still FUBAR?

    Here I am, getting ready to find a new system to upgrade to, and hearing that the WGA is still giving false "pirated" alerts is not what I need to hear.

    I'll be buying a bare-bones system, where I can just move my current HDs into, or a system with a blank drive(s) to transfer my stuff onto. If I do those upgrades and WGA still calls my version "pirated," even though I bought it a couple of years ago at a CompUSA and may still have the reciept for it, MicroBrains would still call me a liar?

    If that does happen, I'll just switch to Linux. Or better yet, find a version of OS X for my new system and show M$ what real piracy is.
    Mr. Roboto
  • count 500,001

    already had a user here get rejected with the WGA, had to reinstall his compute.
  • Vista

    It's bad enough for people who can't reinstall a legal system with XP, but it will be much worse when Vista will be able to shut down a running system because it randomly decides you are a pirate. This one issue will keep me from upgrading to Vista; instead I will make a lateral move to one of the Linux distros (or possibly OSX - note to Apple: you're missing a HUGE marketing opportunity if you don't unbundle OSX).

    I do not advocate piracy - I am just tired of being treated as if I'm guilty until proven innocent (not just by Microsoft, but also Sony, Symantec, RIAA, etc.). Nothing will be done until enough people complain and vote with their wallet.

    Thank you, Adrian, for not letting this issue fall below the radar.
  • Personally, I dislike being treated as a criminal

    I installed XP in a VM for testing, and didn't get around to activating it right away. I was not planning to keep the system running for long (using a corporate license here at work - so it was legal). I needed to run an update for the short test, and MS would not validate my machine. They determined that I was illegal and needed to purchase a new license.

    Mind you they, didn't detect that I hadn't activated, just that I needed to purchase a license and could I please hand over my credit card?!

    I activated and the messages went away. Still, that's not a very robust piece of software that can't determine that I have not activated and instead assumes piracy.

    I am typing this in Vista (which won't activate for some reason...) and Vista seems nice enough. I won't use it at home though until MS removes or dials back the WGA junk. Did you know that they are adding WGA into Office? Did you know that they have added it to their newest flight sim? and that it is being added to all of their products?

    It's only going to get worse.
  • Is the total Hyper-inflated?

    Without more background on how these numbers came about, there is no way to know if 500k is a lot or a little..

    I know that I have validated to WGA several times - whenever I needed a file from Windows. But from what I gather, you only need to fail once. This creates a disproportionate scale, where successes are counted multiple times and failures are only counted the one time.

    Has anyone bothered asked someone who failed if they have successfully passed the WGA test in the past? The statistical analysis in me cringes at how poorly the data may have been collected. (A proper system would search for and erase all prior successes once a failure has been found. If successful once, it should never fail again. A nice paradox windows has created)

    But I digress. Considering all this, it puts that 500k in an even scarier light.
    • Many many pass fail scenarios

      One of the classics (which I don't want to dig through 160 pages to find) was the person who failed WGA when logging on wirelessly, passed when the ethernet cable connected. For several weeks, the experts stated edit this registry, just go ahead and re-install, and on and on. There never was a resolution, they volunteer group just stopped replying to the thread.

      You can find a good sampling of WGA problems here. These are the ones lucky enough to find option 5, the least obvious option of try to resolve the problem instead of just pay.


      in regards to your specific question, many are flagged due to obvious software flaws.


      Hi. Followed your steps. Validated machine; ran MGA & shows GENUINE -- still get the "not genuine" prompt at login ...[/B]

      There are 160 pages, each with 25 threads. I read some of the trials and tribulations of these people and MS should literally be ashamed. Again, these are the people tech savy enough (in general a small percentage of the population) to try to look under the hood and see what is wrong, as opposed to ignoring and/or paying again.

      I have said it before, I'll say it again, I honestly hope that Vista WGA subsystem is very hacker proof, because WGA failures cause a lot more heartburn in Vista than XP, and a cracker with malicious intent can have a lot of "glory" at the expense of millions of innocent users.

  • They Think I am one!!

    I had to reload window XP to my Toshiba notebook. I used the toshiba rescue disk provided by Toshiba. However, there was never any validate message. Then several weeks later up pops a notice " you are using an illegal copy of Windows".
    My daughter and a friend had the same thing happen on their Dell Inspiron note books. All of this required phone calls and discussions with 3 tiers of tech help before anyone understood the problem